Now that the Cisco Global Problem Solver Challenge 2022 winners have been officially announced, you’ll want to learn more about each winning team and the story behind each innovation. The Cisco Global Problem Solver Challenge is an online competition that awards cash prizes to early-stage tech entrepreneurs solving the world’s toughest problems. Since 2017, the competition has awarded $3.25 million USD to 78 startups from 25 countries.
We are excited for you to learn more about the 2022 winning teams addressing some of the biggest challenges we face through technology-based solutions.
I recently had the opportunity to interview Morteza Ghorbani Eftekhar, CEO and Founder of PurCity, winner of the Regional (EMEA) First Runners-Up $75,000 USD prize. PurCity provides a patent pending technology solution that can be implemented/installed onto any urban infrastructure’s surface to directly capture carbon (CO2) from air, contribute to saving energy about 30 to 48 percent energy consumption on a building’s HVAC systems, may increase sustainability, and clean the air.
What problem is your technology solution trying to solve and how does it work?
Morteza: 40 percent of global energy consumption and CO2 emissions originates from buildings.
Our product has a multi-level output: energy reduction, net-zero sustainability, and saving lives from air pollution. We are capturing the air directly, cleaning it, and delivering the clean air into the HVAC system of the building. We are saving 30 to 48 percent of energy consumption on the HVAC system by returning clean air inside the building with our product.
What is innovative about the way you are solving the issue? What sets your solution apart?
Morteza: We specially designed our system to turn building structures or walls, that already exist, into active, smart, and multifunctional systems.
By 2050, around 2.5 billion people will be living in cities. This will lead to more urban construction, less space, and more pollution. We need solutions that can turn old-fashioned materials into new, smart, and sustainable ones. We already have so many buildings in the world. We are enabling the surfaces of these pre-existing buildings, especially in cities, to enable net-zero carbon emissions.
Additionally, our GapS 4.0 has PV solar panels integrated to them. Therefore, we are the world’s first carbon capture technology that will be unplugged while constantly capturing carbon and cleaning the air. Some of the by-products of the system, including hydrogen and pure CO2, can also be sold into the market.
What inspired you to develop this solution?
Morteza: Long story short, everything started when I was a kid. I lost one of my best friends due to the high level of pollution in our city. She had lung cancer, and when she was gone, I wanted to come up with different solutions that would contribute to cleaning the air from the environment. In 2016, I came up with an idea from scratch, and ever since then I have worked on developing PurCity.
How will winning a prize in the Cisco Global Problem Solver Challenge help you advance your business?
Morteza: Nothing can be done without the support of others. This solution is the result of everyone’s work, and thanks to Cisco’s generosity, we can continue to grow. Cisco’s support will help us further develop and expand the technology to capture carbon from urban infrastructures, clean the air, save energy, and improve human health.
Do you know what you will use the prize money for specifically?
Morteza: Cisco is incredibly generous, and this $75,000 prize will help keep our business sustainable. On a personal note, if it weren’t for grants like this one, I would be living in the streets. When the pandemic first hit, I was using my own personal bank account to push the company upward, and I feared having to live out on the streets again. However, the funding and support, from prizes like this one, have helped saved me and my business. Now, with that stress gone, we are working very hard to further improve and commercialize the product for upcoming large-scale projects.
What advice do you have for other social entrepreneurs?
Morteza: One of the most important things I’ve learned in my life is you need to love what you are fighting for, and you need to fight for something that you believe in. If you have found such a goal, you will not be easily deterred when difficulties arise.
You will fight and work towards it 24/7. I personally am dedicating everything — my life and energy — towards making my goal happen. I’ve done Judo since I was a kid and in 2015, I became a Judo champion in Denmark. I know what it takes to fight for what you believe in.
I’ll admit, I’ve made mistakes and failed several times. During my journey there were many moments where I questioned myself. The amount of rejection we faced was incredible, but my mindset has always been following my goals to produce impact. I am proud of my mistakes and failures, as they are empowering me to take the next steps to be better.
Stay tuned for more articles in our blog series, featuring interviews with every Cisco Global Problem Solver Challenge 2022 winning team!